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Finding A Psychotherapist, A Cautionary Tale


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.: Mon, Nov 28th 2011

Finding A Psychotherapist, A Cautionary TaleThere is one assumption that it is safe to make; Never make any assumptions. The National Association of Christian Counselors issued credentials to a man based on false information that he provided. As it turned out, the supposed schools of higher education this man claimed to have graduated from do not exist. This type of thing has happened many times in the past to other institutions and professions. Assumptions are made by those doing the hiring. One of the assumptions is that the applicant is honest and, therefore, there is no need to check into the records. In this particular case, the so called therapist held a fraudulent degree from a bogus college that had nothing more than a mail box address and nothing more. Fraudulent degrees are sold from fake institutions all over the country.

A couple looking for marriage counseling searched the web and found his website that offered couples counseling and psychotherapy for eating disorders and depression.  However, after they entered the office, the wife was troubled by the fact that no credentials of any kind were hanging on the walls. She became suspicious and, after the initial meeting, called the department of health in her state and uncovered the fact that this man had no license to practice psychotherapy and, later, that he had no college degrees of any kind. He was arrested on a number of charges and is awaiting trial.

Sometimes people feel too intimidated by "doctors" to ask vitally important questions. These questions are about education, licensing, experience and publications. Even before deciding to make an appointment, there are now websites that list the names of doctors along with their background information that includes a history of patient complaints and law suits and criminal activity of any kind. Perhaps the most important website to visit is the one that handles credentials in your state. All the information is there and available for free. Also, a phone call to the state regulatory agency can give you the same information.

Whether the professional is a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, clinical social worker or mental health professional, or any other type of physician, there needs to be prominently displayed on the walls of the office the post graduate degrees of education along with the licensing for that state. Patients not only have the right to ask for this information but should not hesitate to do so. You also have a right to ask if the credentials are up to date. If any of these things feel uncomfortable to do in the office then, by all means, do the research on the internet and by telephone.

It is not safe to make assumptions when looking for a health practitioner of any kind. In this case, people thought that nothing could go wrong because it was a Christian organization that issued a certificate. Most of us would feel comfortable with a referral from a religious organization. There was nothing wrong with that particular organization. They were duped as much as everyone else.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

My situation - - Nov 30th 2011

I work out of a shared office space and am not allowed to hang my credentials on the wall. My province does not licence therapy or counselling so there is no way I could display licensing for my province. Please do not make blanket statements that these things need to be prominently dispayed on office walls. It is wrong and can damage my practice if clients/potential clients read this.

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